Dan Henderson has too much heart for his own good
Last evening, while perusing the Internet, taking in the aftermath of UFC 139, Bellator 58, Fedor Emelianenko vs. Jeff Monson and Julio Cesar Chavez's butt-whupping of Peter Manfredo on HBO, one article of tremendous interest caught my eye. It was written by my B/R colleague, Tim McTiernan. The article is an attention-grabber:
“UFC 139 Results: Dan Henderson is the Man to Beat Jon Jones”
I had to stop to read that one. Twice!
What's amazing is not that McTiernan really believes what he wrote. What's amazing is that so many of YOU believe that, too. I've read your blogs, posts and reactions.
Hey, Dan Henderson is a combat sports icon. He is a two-time Team USA Olympian. He is colorful, personable, charming and charismatic. He is a world-class combat artist, with accomplishments that are staggering. When he walks in a room, even veteran fighters and champions look admiringly at him. With little doubt, Dan Henderson is a future UFC Hall of Famer.
Henderson has had a helluva calendar year. In December 2010, he TKO'd tough Renato Sobral in the opening round. In March 2011, he stopped Rafael Cavalcante in the third round to win the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Championship. Soon after, he vacated the title to move to heavyweight and face Fedor Emelianenko. Last July 30, he battered Emelianenko, stopping the Russian legend 4:12 into the opening round. Then came his “Fight of the Year” victory against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
But Dan Henderson beating Jon Jones? UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones? That Jon “Bones” Jones? I hope McTiernan didn't mean that Jon “Bones” Jones. You're not really buying into that, are you?
Above all, I really hope Dan Henderson doesn't buy into that.
OK, let's not put the proverbial cart before the horse. A guy by the name of Lyoto Machida stands in the way of a Jon Jones-Dan Henderson fight. On Dec. 10, the former 205-pound kingpin faces Jones at UFC 140 in Toronto, Canada. Let's presume Jones gets past Machida. Following that, Rashad Evans will tell you he's next in line to face Jones, but he may have to get in line behind Henderson. Sorry, Rashad. It just makes more business sense, kind of like Nick Diaz jumping in front of a waiting Carlos Condit for Georges St-Pierre's 170-pound title belt.
In his article, McTiernan wrote, “Henderson put everything he has on display, from his power to his wrestling, to his incredible heart, chin and determination.”
McTiernan was talking about Henderson's performance against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in their epic battle last Saturday night at UFC 139. In that regard, McTiernan is absolutely correct. Against Rua, it was indeed Henderson's heart, chin and determination that pulled out the victory for him.
Against Jones, however, it is those attributes which will get him slaughtered.
Just because you saw Henderson do certain things in the Octagon against Rua, don't confuse Rua with Jones. Don't ever confuse Rua with Jones. Henderson was able to hit the immobile Rua. Do you really think those same punches will hit the speedy, elusive Jones? In case you're not sure of the answer, it's “No, they won't.” That powerful right hand of Henderson—which has flattened the likes of Michael Bisping, Wanderlei Silva and Fedor Emelianenko—will come up completely empty against Jones.
Oh, and who was that hitting Henderson on Saturday night? Repeatedly. And flush. OK, sure. It was “Shogun” Rua. Is Jones faster than Rua? Is Jones more accurate with his punches? Does Jones have a much longer reach than Rua? Yes, yes and yes. And even though some question Jones' punching power, I think it's even safe to say Jones is a harder puncher than Rua. Those four-ounce UFC gloves are going be crashing into Henderson's face as much as the champion wants them to crash into Henderson's leather-bent face.
Then there's the wrestling. And the groundwork. And the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. And the Muay Thai. Henderson had no clue what to do with Rua when he had him on the ground. He let a heel hook get away from him. What did Jones to do Rua when he had him on the ground back in March at UFC 128? I'll remind you: He carved him up the way you carve up your Thanksgiving turkey.
Oh, there's also the knees, kicks and elbows. Do you honestly think Henderson is going to be able to grab onto Jones and knee him? Elbow him? From the outside, do you really think Hendo will be landing some fancy kicks? I said “really.” In return, those knees, kicks and elbows will be flying at Henderson.
We like Hendo, so we'll try not to imagine what that will look like. Remember Brandon Vera's nose, crushed by a Jon Jones' elbow? The thought of Hendo's already mashed nose turning into filleted proboscis is quite grotesque.
Then there's the stamina problem you saw on Saturday. Henderson was gassed as early as the second round. He was just lucky that Rua was just as gassed. A gassed, gasping, panting, wheezing, huffing, puffing, blowing, oxygen-depleted 41-year-old Dan Henderson against the 24-year-old phenom champ is truly a scary thought. He is much too nice of a professional—and now too old and way too slow—to be subjected to the absolute and thorough beating he will take at the hands of the brilliant titleholder.
Dan Henderson fought—and won—in what may have been the UFC's greatest fight ever at UFC 139. Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is a fight your grandchildren are going to be talking about.
But let's not kid ourselves.
A title challenge against Jon “Bones” Jones is a fight Dan Henderson just can't win.